Anthony's Film Review

Her (2013)

A story about a strange form of love that manages to be both beautifully written and meaningful...

The release of the 2013 science-fiction romance film Her could not have been more timely. With so many people around the world connecting on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, and the related issues of privacy, narcissism, and online bullying becoming hot topics, it's easy to wonder if human beings are becoming increasingly isolated from one another, to the point where face-to-face interaction becomes secondary or rare. After all, some of the best things in life, particularly love, just cannot be experienced deeply with technology as substitutes. It is this concept that writer and director Spike Jonze explores to give us an original story that really makes us think, not to mention feel.

Imagine Los Angeles in the near future, where everyone carries a personal miniature computer, akin to our mobile phones and tablet computers, and wears an earpiece to talk to the computer that organizes and manages just about all of life's necessities. It's a surreal scene, because everyone appears to be talking to themselves without acknowledging the presence of other human beings. One of these people is Theodore Twombly (played by Joaquin Phoenix), who works at a website where people pay to have writers, like Theodore, write personal letters to loved ones instead of doing it themselves. It's another sign of increasing human isolation.

One day, a brand new operating system, the OS1, is released commercially. It's the most advanced OS ever developed, with artificial intelligence that is equivalent to that of a real human being and is customizable and tailored to each user. Theodore is definitely amazed by this once he installs it on his computer. The voice of his OS1, named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), is so life-like that it's literally like having an actual woman with him. Plus, she is so warm, kind, funny, and happy that it's easy to just love this virtual person. That, of course, is exactly what happens here.

When I first saw the trailer for Her, I couldn't help but feel a tiny bit unsettled, because the movie portrays a possible real-life scenario that would horrify me if it were to get out of control. Yet, I felt none of that while watching the actual film. Basically, I let myself go and admired the wonderful relationship blooming between the human Theodore and the computer Samantha. I can think of two reasons for this. One, Theodore is a nice guy with at least a few real-life people to talk to, not some socially awkward man with major psychological issues. Two, love is an emotion, not based entirely on physical connection. After all, people who do not fit a society's ideal for beauty can still have wonderful love relationships. So why not love with a computer? (Not that I'm OK with it in real life, but you know what I mean.)

While I'm on the topic of emotion, let me highlight my reaction to one thing that many would expect to be in this movie: sex. There are two scenes where Theodore and Samantha engage in virtual sex. One is similar to how two humans engage in phone sex, with the partners exchanging erotic descriptions of their fantasies. The other involves an interesting way for Theodore and Samantha to experience sex in a more physical way, which I won't describe just because I don't want to spoil how creative the idea is. In both cases, I didn't find myself feeling uncomfortable. Rather, I was taken by the emotional connection between the two characters.

If you put aside the physical differences between Theodore and Samantha, Her is really a love story like any other, where commonalities bring two people together and personal issues threaten to separate them. There are moments of joy as well as sadness and anger. Through it all, both characters learn more about themselves, with Theodore questioning the purpose of virtual love after finalizing a divorce and Samantha understanding her limitations as a computer with no physical form. Insights into the true nature of love also emerge in scenes with Theodore and his ex-wife, a female friend, and a woman he has a first date with.

To put it plainly, Her is a truly wonderful movie. It'll make you laugh and cry before leaving you with a greater appreciation for human love. Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson deliver incredible performances in this carefully crafted story by Spike Jonze. There is no doubt in my mind that this film will get some awards for acting, writing, and directing. Really, if you want a love story that ingeniously takes something one might disapprove (virtual love) and transforms it into something everyone will approve (true human love), I would smile and say, with utmost affection, "It's Her."

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Her, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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